Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Character culture in Tokyo: Kyuta the fire station mascot

It's hard to overstate how pervasive character culture is in Japan. We're all familiar with anime and manga characters like Doraemon and Astro Boy (sorry - Mighty Atom <- otaku power level up!). Then there are company mascots for everything from candy companies to pharmacies.
Today, as I was walking back from the dentist, I passed a fire station whose mascot's presence was so strong I had to stop and snap some pics.
I believe it's station 7119, or maybe 119.  Check out how the mascot, who's also wearing a funky helmet, has the number plastered on his chest.
 More after the jump:

The fire trucks have also got the mascot, which I believe is named Kyuta (based on the writing beneath some of the images) on the door.
Kyuta wants you to love Tokyo!

Even the ambulance has Kyuta (in different gear!) on the door.

In front of the station

Kyuta is there to greet you at the entrance.

They've even got a Kyuta doll next to the reception window. Did I say the mascot was ubiquitous??

Public service announcement fully endorsed by Kyuta.
As I was musing on the fire station mascot, it struck me that in some other countries, you'd be more likely to see a flag or emblem of some sort providing a badge of identity for a public institution like a fire station. But in a nation comfortable with buying medicine from a shop represented by an orange elephant, seeing a character like Kyuta representing a fire station not only doesn't feel out of place - it feels downright normal! And that's a sign of how powerful character culture is in Japan.

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